Expert Answer Forum
Forbidden Book Index QUESTION from Denise Wood January 16, 2000 I would like to know what happened to the index that the church placed forbidden books. Also want to know if something took its place, and would like to know if someone can tell me where the church stands on the writings and practices of Luisa Piccarreta. I have read the letter from Fr. Hardon to CUF and FR.Staples work and Fr.Most. This doesn't seem convincing enough to the people I am trying to show that we shouldn't read this. Thank You in advance
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on January 21, 2000 Dear Mrs. Wood
The last edition of the Index of Forbidden Books was published in 1948. The Index was formally begun in 1559 (there were precursors) and every so often, new editions would be republished. In 1966, Cardinal Ottaviani announced that there would be no more editions published. I admit that I am entirely ignorant of the canonical status of the 1948 index, but I am rather certain that given the public's general ignorance of its contents the index, very few people, if any, are guilty of any sin because they read a book on the Index.. If you would like to know of the status of the 1948 index, I recommend that you consult a specialist in canon law.
There is nothing which formally replaced the Index. However, there has always existed and continues to exist the duty of every Catholic not to read material which poses a proximate spiritual threat to faith and morals. And this doesn't just mean porn or horror books-- it includes books which promote ideas which are contrary to the faith. My personal opinion is that each person must weigh the benefits of reading books full of erroneous ideas, with the potential consequences. I am fully convinced that people slowly assimilate what they read. They either assimilate ideas which are explicit in a book, or ideas which are implicit, but they assimilate something. One bad book may not change you, but several of them treacherously opens your mind to ideas which betray the faith, without you even being conscious of it.
As far as church law is concerned, there are canons which are intended to guard the faithful against the bad influences of certain books. These are covered in canons 822-832. A bishop has the duty of assuring that religious authors do not promote erroneous ideas, and that pernicious books are not published. The canons are especially concerned with books of a religious nature, but they can be extended to non-religious books, though I doubt that this is not often done in practice.
I have not followed the controversy surrounding Luisa Piccarreta, so my opinions are based on information I have gatherd in a short period of time. I understand that a cause for beatification has been opened for her in her diocese of Trani by Archbishop Cassati, despite the fact that some of her works were placed on the Index in 1938. I think that this case was opened on the belief that those who promoted her cause could show that her writings were not indeed heretical-- that somehow they could be reconciled to the firm teaching of the Church. If Luisa was truly considered a heretic, there is no way she could be canonized, and a cause would not have been opened in the first place. It could be possible that Luisa's works were unjustly placed on the Index. I know, for example, that St. Thomas More's Utopia was placed on the Index of the Spanish Inquisition several hundred years ago, even though they acknowledged him to be a holy man. The message seems to be that her writings may seem to be unsound, but she herself may have been orthodox.
However, Archbishop Cassati has asked that those who are authorized to promote the Divine Will movement in the United States to stop holding conferences and writing about the movement. It seems that there continues to be doctrinal difficulties with her writings and promoting material which is of uncertain orthodoxy is imprudent. I think the Archbishop wants to figure out if her writings can be reconciled before she is promoted any more. Otherwise, those who promote the Divine Will may be unwittingly planting the seeds of heresy.
The most troubling idea which comes out of Luisa Piccarreta's Kingdom of the Divine Will, is that she seems to say that she has new Public Revelation for the Church. The Church teaches that there can be no new Public Revelation i.e doctrine that we must all accept. The Deposit of Faith was closed with the death of the last apostle, John, around 100 A.D. Luisa Piccarreta also claims, through an apparition of Jesus, to be free from the effects of Original Sin. As you can see, these are very grave heresies, and casts great shadow of doubt on the authenticity of her writings.
My advice to everyone is to keep away from this stuff. Luisa Piccarreta's books may very well be sound, although, as you mentioned, Fr. Most, Fr. Hardon and Fr. Staples have expressed some grave doubts about the orthodoxy of her writings, and this should be enough to dissuade people from embarking on this controversy by reading her material and getting involved in the debate. If Luisa's writings really are doctrinally sound, and her apparitions were real, then you can be certain that Providence will guarantee the Church's acknowledgment. If her cause is genuine, Luisa does not need another follower to support her-- there's nothing that the average Catholic can do more for her cause. Those at the center of the debate are taking care of it. And you will not be the worse off, for God will not punish you for having taken the more prudent path. However, if you do get involved, and it turns out that Luisa's writings were heretical, then you have wasted your time on something so uncertain, when you could have been relying on universally approved writings of recognized mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena or St. Therese de Lisieux. There's no reason to go looking for spiritual paths that are so controversial, especially when an archbishop has asked that the promotion of her movement be stopped for the time being.
People who are devoted to mystics and apparitions are normally orthodox in other ways, and it would be just like the devil to find ways of leading the orthodox astray with their own spiritual enthusiasm. The devil does not care whether he leads you astray with your own orthodoxy or unorthodoxy, your own zeal or apathy, your own learning or ignorance, all he cares is that he leads you away from God. If you waste your time on what you think is sound, but in the end, isn't, then the devil has done his job.
I wouldn't know how to convince supporters of Luisa Piccarreta from stopping their activities. I don't know what authority a bishop legally has over American priests, and I suspect that promoters of the Divine Will are using his own lack of legal jurisdiction to push aside concerns that they may be hindering their own movement. I don't think you can push aside such a reasonable request from one who is consecrated to be the guardian of Revelation. I think the best course would be to warn those who are ignorant about it. If people continue to choose to read and promote the Divine Will movement, then you must resign yourself to this, and not expect to win them over on your own efforts. The desire to win an argument at all costs, even for the faith, is a human desire. If you cannot convince them of the error of spending so much time on this, then you must not think that convincing them rests on your own shoulders and your own efforts. Down the line, it's the Holy Spirit that will open their eyes, if they are ever to be open at all. For some mysterious reason, God may be choosing not to use you to convince them to stop, and you must place your trust in his Goodness and Omniscience, even if you do not understand his motives.
God Bless, Suzanne Fortin
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